I had planned to update this Part 3 of my 2013 series on Elvis’ Circle G Ranch before reposting it. Unfortunately, health issues with my wife have taken precedence. Here is a bit of additional information sent to me by Lesley Pilling, Director of the Circle G Foundation:
In 2014 a company purchased the ranch. They contacted us in 2013 and we worked with them confidentially for twelve months educating them on Elvis, the ranch and what the fans wanted to see happen. They had great plans and we thought all our dreams had come true.
Sadly seven years later all they have done physically is to board up the cottage, cut the grass and paint the cross.
Elvis’ idyllic times at the Circle G Ranch paused in late April 1967 when he returned to Hollywood for the last week of filming on Clambake. When that wrapped up, Elvis and the gang did not go back to Graceland or Circle G. Instead, they spent time in Palm Springs as the date for Elvis and Priscilla’s marriage approached.
On May 1, Priscilla and Elvis exchanged their vows at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. After the reception, they returned to Palm Springs to start their honeymoon. On May 4, they flew back to Memphis and spent the next two nights at Graceland. Then, finally on May 6, Elvis and Priscilla returned to Circle G, and for reasons of privacy, they continued their honeymoon at the ranch house.
It is unclear how many days passed until Elvis and Priscilla moved back to their mobile home by the lake, but their stay in the ranch house was long enough for it to be nicknamed their “Honeymoon Cottage.”
The various written histories of Elvis’ life have very little to say about what went on in May 1967, but there are hints that Elvis’ fascination with the cowboy life at the ranch started to wane. The immense bills he had run up since purchasing the Circle G became an increasing strain. Dr. George Nichopoulas had entered Elvis’ life that spring, and some historians consider that as a changing point in Elvis’ behavior and interests. The overall good feeling among the Memphis Mafia started to crumble as jealousy about the trailers and trucks Elvis gave out caused bad feelings. At the end of May and early June, the Elvis biographers mention a number of activities that all indicate he was living at Graceland: a second larger wedding reception, a bowling night party at Whitehaven Plaza, an all-night outing at the Memphis Fairgrounds.
On June 9, Priscilla learned she was pregnant, and the next day, Elvis and friends and wives took off in a Greyhound bus and a caravan of cars for a road trip to California, including stops at Flagstaff, Arizona and the Grand Canyon. On June 19, Elvis reported to MGM for the preproduction of his next movie Speedway. A week later, filming began, and it lasted until August 18. There were some breaks, but Elvis spent the time either in Las Vegas or Palm Springs, not back at Circle G.
It is evident that about this time, Colonel Parker’s earlier prophecy came true. Elvis simply lost interest in his new toy and moved on. According to the excellent reference Elvis—Day by Day, written by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, “With Elvis’ interest in the Circle G having waned almost to the point of nonexistence, Vernon begins to sell off pickup trucks, mobile homes and cattle.”
Elvis did spend some time at the ranch in August and September, but instead of riding horses, his new hobby was target shooting. However, by the end of September, Elvis decided to put the ranch up for sale.
On November 4, 1967, two thousand fans and collectors came to Circle G for a public auction. The sale of tractors, trailers, TV sets, equipment, and miscellaneous items raised over $108,000.
During the 1967 Christmas season, Elvis and the gang said an extended farewell to the Circle G Ranch. They continued to ride the horses not already shipped back to Graceland. The house trailers were all gone, but the ranch still provided an excellent location for hayrides and snowball fights. Finally, on May 20, 1968, Elvis sold the Circle G Ranch for $440,100 ($2,900,000 in today’s dollars).
There are some people who say the Circle G Ranch was not that important in Elvis’ history because of the short time he owned it, and the even shorter time he spent there. They say it does not belong in sphere of reverence fans show for other places in Elvis’ life that are preserved and open to the public: Graceland, the Tupelo home, Sun Studios.
I never had an opinion one way or another about Circle G until I started research for this ElvisBlog series. But, you can’t read all the things Priscilla and Elvis’ buddies said about the ranch in their books or interviews without realizing that the short Circle G period in 1967 was arguably the happiest time in Elvis’ life.
How wonderful would it be if this gorgeous property could be restored and shared with his legions of fans? Who could resist the opportunity to walk around the grounds and check out the ranch house, the stable location, the lake, the woods, the riding trails, the bridge, the cross, and especially the house trailer area by the lake? I think it would be impossible share this special world and not feel the same peace and serenity it gave Elvis. It would be a rare fan who could leave the Circle G Ranch without understanding how Elvis’ time there must have been incredibly happy.
Unfortunately, nothing was ever done to make this dream a reality for the first forty-plus years after Elvis’ time at the Circle G. And abuse and inattention have taken their toll.
Fortunately, a dedicated English fan named Lesley Pilling stepped forward in 2010 to spearhead an effort to save the Circle G Ranch. The Circle G Foundation’s vision for ranch is to see it open as an attraction for Elvis fans. Their objective is to tastefully restore the site to how it was when Elvis knew and loved it; enabling visitors to enjoy the tranquility of the site, just as Elvis did. They envision walking trails, horse riding and other outdoor activities, plus a Visitors’ Center, museum and gift shop in the old ranch house. There is also a longer-term plan to provide a small amount of short-term accommodation, perhaps in the form of log cabins around the lake.
However, the Circle G Foundation’s ambitions run much deeper than just creating another Elvis ‘site’ for fans to visit. The Foundation aims to create on-site facilities at the ranch catering to the disabled and disadvantaged as well as service veterans and others in need. They feel it is very important for Elvis fans to do what we can to continue Elvis’ charitable and humanitarian legacy and create something Elvis would be proud of — and the ranch is the perfect place.
The Circle G Foundation is truly international in scope. They have Ambassadors in the USA, UK, South Africa, Australia, France, Germany, Italy and Canada and have received support from Elvis fans on every continent. The Foundation believes Elvis fans are the best, and saving the Circle G would be a wonderful tribute to him.
The Circle G Foundation’s website contains a huge amount of information, so rather than reproduce it all here, I strongly success you visit it.
As you check out all the sections of the site, you will grasp how critical the situation is with the structures on the ranch. We are in real danger of losing them, and time is not on our side.
Be sure to click on the link “Our Vision For The Ranch,” which goes into considerable detail.
The Vision is still a work in progress and I have suggested to the Foundation that more emphasis needs to be given to the area where the house trailers and the BBQ grill were located. The concrete foundations are still there in the ground, and Lesley Pilling advises she has information on who was in each trailer.
Another thing you can do is visit the Circle G Foundation Facebook page and ‘Like’ it. There are now over 4,200 Likes and the next goal is 5,000.
Another place to visit on the site is the “Store.” You can help the cause by purchasing Circle G merchandise. For now, the prices are listed in Pounds (remember, it’s an English site), but when you pay by credit card or PayPal, everything is converted to dollars.
Of course, the most important thing you can do is donate to the Circle G Foundation. There are details on the site about how the money will be used and what will happen if it can’t be spent on the Circle G. Please click on “How You Can Help…” and give serious thought to donating generously.
Here’s a long shot, but if you happen to have $3,900,000, you can purchase the Circle G Ranch and work with the Foundation to bring this dream to a reality.
We’ll end with one last photo. Imagine if you could walk out of the Visitors Center and take in the view that Elvis had in 1967. Imagine if you could walk around the 163 beautiful acres and enjoy the things that made Elvis so happy.
Or, imagine that the old ranch house and cross had rotted and crumbled to the ground. Man, I sure hope we can save the Circle G.
© 2013 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net